Community Music School History | Webster University

Community Music School History


Suzuki class c. 1989




CMS 1969

The Beginning

In 1925, Edna Leiber founded the original Community Music School with faculty from the Saint Louis Symphony providing lessons to area children.  One of the community members instrumental in the School's early growth was Mrs. Alice Gerdine. During the same period of time, the St. Louis Institute of Music was thriving as the only music conservatory in the Midwest.  Graduates of the Institute are St. Louis' own Herb Drury and former CMS faculty members Arthurleigh and Shirley Bartzen.  Shirley is CMS Director Emeritus having dedicated many years in key administrative roles. The Suzuki strings program began in 1973.



The CASA Days

In 1974, the Community Music School and the Institute of Music merged to form the St. Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts (CASA).  Many St. Louisans still remember CASA fondly.  Several members of our faculty are graduates of the St. Louis Conservatory.  In 1978, the CMS orchestral program began. The Kindermusik program was established in 1993.



Strauss Center Branch at Faust Park

Creating the Community Music School

Under the leadership of Bruce Coppock in 1994, CASA merged with the Saint Louis Symphony to become the Symphony Community Music School.  This prompted several other symphonies throughout the country to follow suit.  In 1996, the Percussion Ensemble was formed.  The Preparatory Program was founded in 1998.  The Leon Strauss Center for Music opened in 1999 in Faust Park as the new west county branch.



Merging with Webster University

Community Music School was welcomed to Webster University in 2001 with a commitment to preserving the Community Music School and its important role in St. Louis' musical landscape.  During this time, the CMS has expanded to offer the Young Composers Competition, new jazz programs, summer camps, After School Music Program with St. Louis Public Schools, Music Today partnership with Alarm Will Sound, and Explore Music!, a global music program and serves more than 2000 students throughout the greater St. Louis region and beyond.

CMS 560 Trinity Building



CMS Center April 2013CMS today

Decades after Edna Leiber founded CMS, Mrs. Gerdine heard a performance of one of our student chamber ensembles in 2005 and enthusiastically rose from her seat to exclaim that Edna, who had very high standards, would be thrilled to see that those same high artistic standards are alive in the Community Music School today. One of the outstanding musicians from this period was cellist, Leslie Parnas who became the youngest principal cellist in a professional symphony at the age of 21.

Kindermusik Program late 1980s Student piano recital in the Trinity Building